Earlier this month I posted about the pros and cons of writing Alexa skills for kids. Here’s another pro: the Alexa kids’ skill challenge contest.
The official title of the contest is Amazon Alexa Skills Challenge: Kids, and Amazon is hosting it in partnership with Devpost, a career placement and resource site for college age developers.
What’s In It For Devs
There’s $250,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs, and everyone with a valid entry gets a limited edition Dot. From Amazon’s developer blog post about the contest:
We’re thrilled to announce Alexa Skills Challenge: Kids with Devpost, an opportunity for developers to publish a stellar Alexa skill for kids under the age of 13 for a chance to win their share of cash and prizes totaling $250,000. All eligible participants will take home a limited-edition Echo Dot. Twenty finalists will take home $5,000 and will get their skill promoted by Amazon across multiple channels. On top of all that, the winners will get:
Grand Prize: The winner for the overall best Alexa skill will be chosen from the finalists and will receive $20,000 in addition to their $5,000 finalist prize, for a total of $25,000 in cash. The grand prize winner will also get a cool trophy to show off to their family, friends, and fellow students/co-workers.
Bonus Prize – Kid Favorite, Parent Approved: The winner for the best skill as voted by kids and their parents will be chosen from the finalists and will receive $5,000 in addition to their $5,000 finalist prize, for a total of $10,000 in cash.
Bonus Prize – Best Skill by High School Students: The winner of this bonus prize will receive $10,000 and need not be a finalist. The winning individual or team members must be age 13-18, and currently enrolled in a high school in the US and Canada.
Bonus Prize – Best Skill by University Students: The winner of this bonus prize will receive $10,000 and need not be a finalist. The winning individual or team members must be currently enrolled in an accredited university.
Bonus Prize – Best Educational Skill: The winner of this bonus prize will receive $5,000 and need not be a finalist. This prize is intended for the best Alexa skill that helps kids under 13 learn something new such as critical thinking, listening comprehension, spelling, math, science or other valuable skill or subject.
Bonus Prize – Best Skill Designed for Echo Show: The winner of this bonus prize will receive $5,000 and need not be a finalist. This prize is intended for the best Alexa skill for kids under 13 designed for Echo Show.
When’s The Deadline?
You have until January 10th to submit your entry skill for certification and get your entry package into the Devpost contest submission site. Note that in addition to submitting the skill and providing the contest site with information about it, you must shoot a demo video no longer than five minutes in length. The demo video must be uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, or Youku and be made public, and a link to the video must be provided on the submission form on the competition website.
Some Things To Think About Before You Enter
Finalist skills will not earn any money for customer engagement during the months of February and March of 2018, but a finalist skill will win a $5,000 prize so this may not matter to you. If your skill becomes a finalist or wins one of the other prizes, the added exposure you’ll get from Amazon’s heavy promotion will be pretty valuable as well.
Judging criteria include such things as originality, quality of the implementation (e.g., ease of use, error handling, interaction experience) and “freshness of content”. Basic trivia and flash card skills won’t cut it here. The winning skills will most likely have original concepts and exceptional interaction design, so entrants should be prepared to up their skill dev game.
There will be a phase of judging called the Customer Engagement Period, during which time “a variety of factors are considered such as minutes of usage, new customers, recurring customers, customer ratings, and more.” Think of it as a kind of Skill Idol round. Some developers will welcome this kind of exposure, others may not want to invite such close consumer scrutiny. It’s not uncommon for consumers who don’t understand how skills work in general to leave negative reviews due to user error. Many consumers will also leave negative reviews on a skill that does exactly what its description says when the consumer wishes it did something else, or something more. Reviews will remain after the contest is over.
Personally, I feel the potential rewards outweigh the risks. Building a top-tier skill won’t be easy, but the effort will probably improve my Alexa work overall.
See You There!
I’ve already registered for the contest and have a skill in development for my entry. Good luck to all, and may the best skills win! Here are the relevant links: